This is a partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, Dec. 31, that has been edited for clarity.

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JIM ANGLE, GUEST-HOST: Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary are right around the corner. With polls showing Governor Howard Dean (search) as the front-runner in both states, there isn't much time for the other candidates to stop his momentum.

Joining me to discuss politics 2004 is Michael Barone, co-author of The Almanac Of American Politics, and senior writer for U.S. News and World Report, and one of our favorite experts, I have to tell you that.


ANGLE: Yes. That to. Let me ask you first, how you would handicap the Democratic primary at this point?

BARONE: Well, the Democratic -- I mean Howard Dean has obviously come out of nowhere in January. He was traveling alone without campaign staffers because they could only afford one airline ticket a year ago. And now he is leading the pack. What we have to keep in mind, though, Jim, is numbers can move pretty rapidly. They are sometimes -- those numbers are occupying what often is seismically weak territory, and there's possibilities of great change there.

Dean's moved up very fast. He does have a core of support that's really strong. The question is, how big is that core of support and how much -- will some of the others of it melt away?

ANGLE: And aside from some of the things that he says from time to time that draw fire from his rivals, they have run a good campaign.

BARONE: Oh, the Dean people have done wonderful and genius things with the Internet. They've gotten lots of people involved. They have an e-mail list of, you know, 600,000, something of that magnitude. Which is probably more than all the other Democratic candidates put together.

They've created a sort of sense of common feeling that you get with many tens of thousands of people in their campaign. That's a significant achievement. And you know, some of the people who work in other campaigns say it's a cult. In any case, it's a powerful source and that seems especially strong in New Hampshire.

ANGLE: And let's look at New Hampshire because Howard Dean, according to some recent polls that I think we have here, is just starting to slip a little bit. Over the month of December, he went from 45 percent in New Hampshire to 37, six of that was picked up by Kerry. A point went to Clark. A point went to Lieberman. He does seem to be losing a little ground there; though one is always a little careful about polls. What do you think is responsible for that?

BARONE: Well, that most recent track from ARG basically shows him down toward the lower end of the 35 to 45 range he's been running in. He's mostly been running in somewhat of the higher range. It is still an impressive score. It has essentially approximately double what John Kerry, the second place finisher, is getting.

And if you look at the figures in ARG and other polls that have been conducted in New Hampshire, you can make the argument that Kerry stepped forward a little in December. Before December 10, he was getting 12 to 14 percent. From December 10 on, he's getting 15 to 20. Given the error of margin in polls, it's not clear that that's movement, looks like it might be. That he's making some forward movement.

Dean has kept most of his hard core together. But that 37 number raises the question of whether or not that hard core is a little smaller than we thought.

ANGLE: Now, Dean has become famous for saying things that immediately draw the ire, even more than you might expect in a political campaign, of his opponents, saying that his supporters might not vote for other candidates because they're just with him. Making all sorts of statements, such as the one we heard today that he's the only Democratic candidate from a farm state, that sort of thing.

BARONE: If you took away the dairy cows, Jim, it wouldn't be much of a farm state unless you count sugar maples. But you know, Dean -- I think Dean is right about one of those things. Which is as a factual matter, an awful lot of these Dean supporters are not readily transferable to other Democratic candidates. They have a cause.

And the very frankness and willingness to speak out and say things that turn out to be maladroit is the same quality that is attracting a lot of voters to Howard Dean. They're going to stick with him and you could have a lot of them be no-shows in November.

ANGLE: Now, we were talking mostly earlier about New Hampshire. Let's talk a little bit about Iowa. There, Dick Gephardt, who is from the Midwest, is putting most of his hopes on Iowa. And in fact, he says that you need somebody from the Midwest to go after somebody like George Bush. Let's listen to what he said.


REP. DICK GEPHARDT: If you are going to beat Bush -- if you look at the electoral map, we're going to win in California and New York. We're going to win in a few other coastal states. The key to the election is the Midwest. It's the heartland of the country. That's where I'm from. I'm the only candidate from that part of the country and that's where my union support is from.


ANGLE: Now, the problem is Dean is ahead there, too. One of the latest polls 42 to 23 over Gephardt. What -- you would think that Gephardt, this is obviously in his neighborhood, and he has done well in the past with unions. What is going on here?

BARONE: Well, Dick Gephardt has to do well in Iowa, really to survive in this race and emerge, as he hopes he does, as the major competitive to Howard Dean. I would say that 42 results, we haven't really seen that before. When you look down the list of other Iowa results in the last month, you don't see anything -- it's between 20 and 32 for Dean.

ANGLE: So, what's...

BARONE: I want to see another 42 before I put that one up on the boards.

ANGLE: What kind of lead does he have? What kind of margin does he have in most of the polls?

BARONE: I'd say we have to assume he does not have as big a margin in Iowa as he has in New Hampshire. Gephardt and Kerry, who has been running third in the polls there, both have significant organizations with experienced Iowa people. What Dean is doing is he is pouring a lot kids -- young people in from out of state. They're going to spend a lot of time. The question is, whose supporters will be most enthusiastic and willing to come out to a meeting in somebody else's living room on a cold, Monday night in January.

ANGLE: Right. Quick word on Kerry. How is he holding up?

BARONE: Well, Kerry has had some results in Iowa that are a little bit encouraging. He still hasn't finished higher than third except in a poll conducted by his own pollster. So you'd have to say, you know, he'd love to finish second in Iowa, or ahead of Dick Gephardt, or Howard Dean or whatever. That would be great for his candidacy. The numbers say that's within the range of possibility. The numbers say it isn't there yet.

ANGLE: So, they will all go at it in New Hampshire and Iowa, and then sort it out and see who is left standing in South Carolina?

BARONE: That's right. We'll be in Manchester the next day for the announcement of the candidacy withdrawals and who has a plane ticket to Columbia, South Carolina.

ANGLE: Now, let me ask you one question about the broader election. Let's look at the electoral map from the last election and you will see here the great swath of Republican states across the middle of America and the Democratic states on the coast and up in the upper Midwest there. As you look at this map, what is different in 2004 from 2000? What are the possibilities?

BARONE: Well, I think, you know, I think there's a bunch of states that went by five points or less last time with 161 electoral votes, which have got to be considered up for grabs. Certainly the Bush campaign is emphasizing them, including some states like Ohio that they carried. I think Dick Gephardt's statement that you presented earlier in the segment is basically accurate. If you look at the 161 electoral votes, 95 are in the Midwest or Pennsylvania.

ANGLE: OK. Good. All right. We have to take a break. Thanks Mike.

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